Chief Justice sets 2-month cap for poll dispute resolution

Chief Justice Luke Malaba has announced a new raft of measures under which all electoral disputes will now be finalised within a period of two months to curb the dragging of cases.

This is aimed at ensuring timeous delivery of justice as in some instances, electoral disputes have taken years to be resolved,  disadvantaging the electorate.

The new measures crafted by the Chief Justice will drastically slash the time taken to conclude Electoral Court challenges.

Practice Direction Number 2 of 2023 issued by Chief Justice Malaba titled “Management of Electoral Matters”, stipulates that the new set of laws will apply to all courts in Zimbabwe.

The practice direction treats all electoral disputes as urgent matters that must be completed in the shortest possible time.

Chief Justice Malaba said the purpose of case management procedures shall be to stipulate strict timelines within which electoral matters are to be prosecuted and to provide for any procedures incidental to or connected with the objective of ensuring the expeditious hearing of cases.

He said the case management meetings shall cover the procedural aspects of an electoral matter including the timelines for the filing of any pleadings and preparation of the record of proceedings.

Others are filing of heads of argument, consolidation of matters, setting down of matters for hearing and any other such matters.

“In post-electoral matters, that is any electoral matters arising after a declaration of the result of an election has been made, the timelines shall be such that matters are finalised within two months of their filing and, in any other case, not more than 90 days from the declaration of the electoral result.

“A finalised electoral matter is one in which a final judgment has been passed and the reasons thereof, if any, handed down,” said the Judiciary boss.

Chief Justice Malaba said a judge or judges of a court dealing with electoral matters at the first instance shall, in determining the timelines for the hearing and finalisation of the matter, take into account the possibility of a subsequent appeal or review that may be made.

“In pre-electoral matters, that is any electoral matters arising before an election has been conducted, the timelines shall be such that matters are finalised within a week of their filing and, insofar as it may be possible nor less than 21 days before the election.

“In electoral matters arising during an election, matters shall be managed with the utmost urgency so as to ensure that they are disposed of, insofar as it may be possible, within two days of the date of filing and before the conclusion of the election or the declaration of the result(s) of the election,” he said.

Chief Justice Malaba said upon the filing of an electoral matter, a registrar shall immediately, and in any event, no later than 24 hours from the time of filing, place the matter before the chief justice, judge president or senior judge, as the case may be, for the giving of directions on the management of the matter.

“The chief justice, judge president or senior judge shall forthwith issue directions on the management of the matter.

“Where it is necessary to convene a case management meeting, as it may appear fit to the chief justice, judge president or senior judge, the chief justice, judge president or senior judge shall accordingly direct the registrar to invite the parties to a case management meeting,” he said.

Justice Malaba said himself, the judge president or senior judge shall allocate the electoral matter to a judge or judges, as the case may be, who shall be responsible for the management of the case where necessary, the issuance of any further directions necessary to secure the expeditious disposition of the matter and to curtail pre-hearing procedures.

He said if a registrar was not sure about whether a matter qualified as an electoral matter as defined herein, he or she would immediately obtain directions.

Herald

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